D.C. Dispatch: Animal diseases, dog racing and disarming the IRS

Gun Rights

Sens. Chuck Grassley and Joni Ernst worked in unison this week, co-sponsoring multiple bills together, while Rep. Randy Feenstra worked on a proposal to help maintain livestock exports despite animal disease outbreaks.

Take a look at what Iowa’s lawmakers were up to this week:

Feenstra fights to stop the spread of animal diseases

Feenstra introduced legislation aiming to ease restrictions on livestock exports amid animal disease outbreaks.

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The bill would “codify the USDA’s role in negotiating regionalization agreements that allow livestock, poultry and other animal products from unaffected areas of the country to continue to be safely exported in the event of an animal disease outbreak,” according to a news release from Feenstra’s office. 

“I am proud to introduce legislation with my colleague Rep. Jimmy Panetta that ensures a disease outbreak in one part of the country does not impact Iowa’s ability to produce and export the agricultural goods that our country and the world rely on,” Feenstra said in a news release.

The legislation would establish a notification system to alert producers of changes in import and export statuses of agricultural commodities. 

The legislation, the Safe American Food Exports Act, was introduced alongside Panetta, a Democrat from California. 

California is the largest dairy producer in the nation, while Iowa is the largest pork producer, according to the USDA. 

Dairy discussion in both chambers

Sen. Chuck Grassley introduced a bipartisan bill this week that would expand milk options for schools in the National School Lunch Program to include whole and 2% milk. Currently, the law serves students fat-free and 1% milk. 

“American youth have reduced their dairy consumption as a result of the misguided push to put only skim and 1% milk in schools,” Grassley said in a news release. “Whole and 2% milk are packed with flavor and critical nutrients, and it was a mistake to take these options away from our kids.”

The bill was introduced by Sen. Roger Marshall, a Republican from Kansas and members of the Senate Agriculture Committee. 

Grassley welcomes Republican approach to student debt

A package of five bills, one of which is Grassley’s, counters President Joe Biden’s student debt relief, according to a news release from Grassley’s office. 

Grassley’s legislation would create a universal financial aid offer form and would standardize financial aid terms. The legislation would allow students to compare financial aid packages, which according to the Government Accountability Office, currently understate the cost.

The bill would also “guide students against taking on debt to attend programs that do not translate to higher-paying job opportunities,” according to the news release. 

Another bill included in the package, which strengthens loan counseling requirements and offers information about payments and salaries, is similar to a bill Grassley previously authored. 

Gas stove conversation heats up

Gas stoves have been a major talking point in Washington, D.C., with two recent votes against the prohibition of gas stoves getting support from every House Republican. 

The Gas Stove Protection and Freedom Act passed the House this week, with all four Iowa delegates voting in favor of “prohibiting the Consumer Product Safety Commission from using federal funds to regulate gas stoves as a banned hazardous product or issue or enforce a product safety standard that prohibits the use or sale of gas stoves or substantially increases their price,” according to the bill’s summary. 

The Save Our Gas Stoves Act also passed the House, which, according to the bill’s summary, says the “Department of Energy may not prescribe or amend energy conservation standards for kitchen ranges or ovens if they would result in the unavailability of a product on account of the type of fuel the range or oven uses.”

Gas stoves have come under fire recently for potentially putting toxic chemicals into homes and the atmosphere. 

Despite Congressional Republicans preparing for a ban, in a June 6 statement the White House said it would not support a ban of gas stoves. 

The Iowa delegates weighed in a Twitter, including Rep. Ashley Hinson.

Ernst, Grassley stand up for biofuels

The senators from Iowa are asking for policy changes to provoke innovation in biofuels as aviation fuel. 

Legislation introduced this week would update federal standards for sustainable aviation fuel and would require government agencies to adopt the Greenhouse gasses, Regulated Emissions and Energy use in Technologies (GREET) model to analyze the environmental impact of fuels. 

Biofuels are said to be more carbon friendly alternative to aviation fuel and can be used in existing aircrafts. According to NASA, a 50% biofuel aviation fuel can cut particle emissions of the aviation industry by as much as 70%.

The legislation would create significant opportunities for Iowa agriculture, according to Grassley. 

“Expanding sustainable aviation fuel use in commercial aviation would create significant opportunities for Iowa biofuel development. However, legal discrepancies and the Federal Aviation Administration’s (FAA) use of outdated lifecycle emissions data are market barriers,” Grassley said in a news release. “Our bill fixes the problem by requiring the FAA reference the most accurate GREET model for emissions assessments, consistent with many other federal agencies.”

Ernst sees the bill as an increase in national security.

“Not only is this model better for our national security, but it also provides an opportunity to support our hard-working American farmers,” Ernst said in a news release.

The bipartisan bill was introduced by Grassley and Ernst and Sens. Tammy Duckworth, D-Ill.; Deb Fischer, R-Neb., and Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn.

Ernst and Grassley renew fight against Proposition 12 

Ernst and Grassley joined Roger Marshall, a Republican from Kansas, in fighting back against a California law that restricts livestock production. 

California’s Proposition 12 prohibits the sale of pork, eggs and veal if the products are not raised according to California’s standards, regardless of where it was raised. 

“Cruel confinement,” in one element of the law, is defined as a breeding-pig enclosure providing less than 24 square feet of floor space per pig. 

Iowa lawmakers have taken a vocal stance against the measure. The Exposing Agricultural Trade Suppression Act would prohibit state and local governments from interfering with agricultural production nationwide. The act would also preserve a state’s ability to regulate farming within its borders. 

“California’s Proposition 12 is going to hurt the economy of Iowa, which is number one in pork production,” Grassley said in a video. “Because we farm differently than the eggheads of California think we ought to run our animal agriculture, we can’t sell our product there. We have to solve this problem by passing legislation. Our bill makes sure Iowa pork can be sold everywhere in the nation, including in California, and consumers can afford bacon for breakfast.”

Ernst aims to disarm IRS

Ernst introduced legislation this week that would prohibit the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) from buying guns. The bill would transfer currently owned guns to the General Services Administration to be auctioned off to benefit deficit reduction and relocate the IRS criminal investigation division within the Justice Department. 

The IRS has spent $35.2 million on guns, ammunition and military-style equipment since 2006, according to a report from Open the Books, a non-profit dedicated to tracking tax dollars.

“The taxman is fully loaded at the expense of the taxpayer,” Ernst said in a news release. “As the Biden administration has worked to expand the size of the IRS, any further weaponization of this federal agency against hard working Americans and small businesses is a grave concern. I’m working to disarm the IRS and return these dollars to address reckless spending in Washington.”

The IRS does need at least a segment of its employees to be armed, according to an article from the National Rifle Association.

Open the Books requested and received a comment from the IRS in 2021 regarding agents using guns:

“Criminal Investigation special agents have been using weapons throughout their history as they have consistently found themselves investigating the most dangerous criminals involved in organized crime, drugs and gangs. These types of cases are typically worked in conjunction with other state and federal law enforcement agencies. Firearms and equipment are also used for training purposes. Special agents are required to train and qualify for their weapons and must participate in quarterly trainings to maintain proficiency.”

Nunn introduces anti-greyhound racing law

Rep. Zach Nunn introduced a bill this week to ban greyhound racing in the U.S. and to outlaw gambling on greyhound races simulcast from other countries. The bill would also outlaw American-raised greyhounds from being exported for racing purposes.

“Iowa has paved the way to end the cruel practice of racing greyhound. Across the country, we still have work to do,” Nunn said in a news release. “The bipartisan Greyhound Protection Act will end the exploitation of dogs by banning this act altogether.”

Currently, greyhound racing is legal in just one state, West Virginia, according to Grey2K USA, a non-profit dedicated to end dog racing. 

The bipartisan bill was introduced by California Democratic Reps. Salud Carbajal and Tony Cárdenas and North Carolinian Don Davis, and Republican Reps. Lori Chavez-DeRemer from Oregon and Nancy Mace from South Carolina.

Hinson looks to add five orders to limit regulation

Hinson has introduced a bill aimed at rolling back government rulemaking. 

The Red Tape Reduction Act would codify five executive orders signed by former President Donald Trump, all aiming to “rein in heavy-handed government regulations,” according to a news release from Hinson’s office.

“When it comes to government regulation, we should be thinking about subtraction, not addition,” Hinson said in the release. “This legislation is an important first step to increase transparency and eliminate bureaucracy.”

The five orders, 13771, 13777, 13891, 13892 and 13893, if codified, would force two regulations to be eliminated for every new regulation issued by an executive department or agency. The legislation requires a regulatory reform officer for each agency and requires congressional approval for issuing binding rules through guidance documents. Agencies would have to provide public notice of application of regulations and cut spending elsewhere when proposing to increase spending. 

Hinson acknowledges 15-year anniversary of Cedar Rapids flood

Hinson introduced legislation to provide resources to protect against flooding. 

Hinson, who covered the 2008 flood in Cedar Rapids as a reporter, and former meteorologist Rep. Eric Sorensen, a Democrat from Illinois, are looking to amend the USDA’s Regional Conservation Partnership Program to mitigate floods and droughts. 

Congressional baseball game

The Iowa delegation had three members participate in Wednesday’s congressional baseball game.

The Republicans defeated the Democrats 16-6 in the once-a-year meeting of the squads. 

Feenstra, starting first baseman for the Republicans, hit a two-run single, drew a walk and reached first base on an error. Ernst made a few appearances as a pinch-runner. 

Both Hinson and Nunn tweeted from the seats, cheering on the GOP. 

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